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Can Taking Too Many Water Pills Harm You?

author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
Can Taking Too Many Water Pills Harm You?
Some diuretics eliminate sodium from the body. Photo Credit Arisara_Tongdonnoi/iStock/Getty Images

Water pills, medically known as diuretics, have many legitimate uses, but can cause dehydration and irregular heartbeats if you take them in excess. Abusing diuretics as a weight-control method is not only risky but ineffective, since water weight will re-accumulate when you stop taking the pills. Take diuretics exactly as prescribed and never take diuretics prescribed for another person.


Different types of diuretics have different risks if you take too many. Diuretics work of different parts of the kidney and have different properties. Loop diuretics, like furosemide, and thiazide diuretics like chlorothiazide and hydrochlorothizide increase urination and cause potassium loss. Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that conducts electrical impulses through the heart as well as the rest of the body. Potassium-sparing diuretics such as triamterine and spironolactone, often given in conjunction with loop diuretics, conserve potassium and help prevent potassium depletion.


Loop diuretics, the strongest type of diuretics, and thiazide diuretics, which are weaker, cause sodium loss. Sodium excretion pulls water along with it. Thiazide diuretics also dilate blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure. Potassium-sparing diuretics are weak diuretics used to treat high blood pressure. They are often used along with loop or thiazide diuretics to prevent excess potassium loss. Taking overdoses of loop and thiazide diuretics can cause not only dehydration from excessive urination but also low levels of potassium, sodium and other electrolytes. Overdoses of these drugs can increase blood glucose and uric acid levels as well as photosensitivity.


Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry, loose skin, sunken eyes and dry mouth. You urine may turn dark and you may urinate infrequently. Your mouth may feel dry and you may not produce tears. If your electrolyte levels fall, you may experience fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, weakness, muscle cramping and a potentially life-threatening irregular heartbeat. High uric acid levels can increase the risk of developing gout. Photosensitivity can cause skin rash, itching and severe sunburn from minimal sun exposure.


The consequences of taking too many diuretics can be deadly. If the dose of diuretic you’re taking isn’t lowering your blood pressure or reducing fluid retention, talk with your doctor rather than increasing your dose on your own. Do not take diuretics as a way to control your weight; diuretics will not cause fat loss or result in permanent weight change.

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